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Stephen Smoliar
The Rehearsal Studio, December 2016

SAARIAHO, K.: Chamber Works for Strings, Vol. 1 (Meta4, Laakso) ODE1222-2
SAARIAHO, K.: Chamber Works for Strings, Vol. 2 (Meta4, Freund) ODE1242-2

…those encountering Saariaho for the first time might do well consider the second volume before the first. Beginning with her settings of text, the neophyte listener may have a better crack and developing some sense of “how time passes” (in the words of Karlheinz Stockhausen) in the flow of Saariaho’s sonorities. One can then move on to the more abstract instrumental works and ultimately take in her approach to the interplay between instruments and electronics. This is likely to be a rather lengthy process for establishing acquaintance, but personal experience has revealed that it can be a rewarding one. © 2016 The Rehearsal Studio

Terry Robbins
The WholeNote, November 2013

The technical level of the playing throughout the CD seems to be extremely high, and while it’s always difficult to tell exactly how good the interpretations are when you listen to works of this nature for the first time, the booklet portrait of the composer with the META4 quartet members suggests that we are certainly in good hands. © 2013 The WholeNote Read complete review

David Kettle
The Strad, October 2013

It’s hard to imagine more passionate, committed or meticulously crafted accounts of Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s exquisitely strange chamber music for strings than these glowing performances by her compatriots in the Meta4 quartet. This is a beautifully paced disc…it also serves to highlight both the individual and the corporate talents of the four players.

Second violinist Minna Pensola, for example, brings a remarkable range of colours to the microtonal waverings and keening glissandos of the opening Tocar, and she delivers a movingly intimate account of the hushed Nocturne…First violinist Antti Tikkanen is more fiery in the sonata-like Calices…Violist Atte Kilpeläinen copes with the technical demands of the eerie Vent nocturne magnificently, and cellist Tomas Djupsjöbacka brings a thrilling spontaneity to the volatile moods of Spins and Spells.

The disc’s high point…is the concluding Nymphéa, whose icy poetry the Meta4 players deliver in an astonishingly broad palette of sounds, extended even further through the piece’s live electronic processing. They coalesce as a single voice, with immaculate phrasing and articulation…It’s a breathtaking performance, bewitching in its strangeness, and its incisiveness is only emphasised by the purity and warmth of the recorded sound. © 2013 The Strad Read complete review

Marcus Karl Maroney, October 2013

Haunting and evocative are words that immediately spring to mind when describing Kaija Saariaho’s musical world. This is especially true of works she has created since the late 1990s, which form the bulk of this, the excellent first volume of the Finnish composer’s chamber works for strings from Ondine.

…the playing by the quintet of instrumentalists is top-notch. The liner notes give excellent narrative descriptions of each work and, altogether, this is an excellent purchase for those interested in the development of Saariaho’s language and contemporary music for strings. © 2013 Read complete review

Chris Morgan
Scene Magazine, September 2013

Modern instrumental music has no better emissary than Finnish composer Kaiji Saariaho. Her oeuvre is undeniably a creation only possible in our time, a haunted post-serial serialism, embedded in electronic soundscapes and avant-garde conceptualism. Many of these pieces…unwind slowly and organically. Wide expanses of ethereal string textures and looped effects are punctuated with exuberant violin bursts that dissolve into the air as quickly as they arrive. Elsewhere, a computer analysis of a cello’s played tone inspired the harmonic basis for Nymphea, just one of the numerous marriages between old and new instruments to be found on this superb compilation. © 2013 Scene Magazine Read complete review

Michelle Dulak Thomson
San Francisco Classical Voice, September 2013

The string players are the Finnish quartet Meta4, which despite the unbearably cute name is a terrific ensemble, both all together and disassembled. Pianist Anna Laakso is nimble and sometimes downright ferocious in Tocar and Calices, and Marko Myöhänen handles the electronics in the two pieces using them. © 2013 San Francisco Classical Voice Read complete review

Mark Sealey
Classical Net, September 2013

Saariaho’s music is beautiful, compelling and imaginative at every turn. This CD illustrates well what she has to offer in the apparently reduced medium of chamber strings (with piano and electronics). Yet the approach taken—individually and collectively—by the members of Meta4 reveals just how profound and far-reaching Saariaho’s vision is and how her musical preoccupations expand in the medium to fill vast spaces with highly meaningful and musically evocative and convincing compositions.

The playing of Meta4 (Antti Tikkanen and Mina Pensola, violins; Atte Kilpeläinen, viola; Tomas Djupsjobacka, cello; Anna Laakso, piano; Marko Myohanen, electronics) and Kaija Saariaho herself, electronics, is superb. Their technique is astute, intense. Yet they are almost relaxed in the way they offer space for the at times complex and concentrated music to evolve and explain itself. This degree of competence only comes from great familiarity with the composer’s preoccupations and world. Their approach is never detached. But at the same time it’s not that of superficial advocates of Saariaho’s particular style. The music is the best advocate. In other words potential rhetoric is subdued. Technical prowess advanced. Much of the music is slow. It’s all thoughtful. And these players respond admirably to the challenges attendant on this.

This is Volume I of Saariaho’s Chamber Works (for strings). If she is new to you, you’re likely to be struck with the quality, reach, beauty and originality of her music. If you’re already aware of this major composer’s work, this CD should not be missed…this would be a major release of enticing and important music. Recommended. © 2013 Classical Net Read complete review

Stephen Smoliar, August 2013

On the recording Meta4 performs as a string quartet for only one of the selections. That is “Nymphéa” (water lily), which Saariaho composed for the Kronos Quartet in 1987 and was recorded by the Kronos on an earlier Ondine release. As has already been described, “Nymphéa” was composed for string quartet with live electronic accompaniment; and, on this new recording, the electronics are provided by Marko Myöhänen. What remains most interesting in this composition is the seamless boundary between instrumental and electronic sonorities; and it is a delight to encounter another string quartet that is as comfortable with Saariaho’s logic as the Kronos originally was. © 2013 Read complete review, August 2013

The two solo-instrument pieces are in many ways the most satisfying works on the disc, using the violin and cello in some interesting ways that include elements of expressiveness as well as sonic experimentation. This…CD will be attractive to listeners already familiar with Saariaho’s works as well as ones interested in hearing one direction in which Finnish music…has gone in the half-century since the great composer’s death. © 2013 Read complete review

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